Daily News Archive
From July 20, 2001
New NIH Study Finds
Link Betweeen Use of DDT and Premature Births in the 1960s
the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a new study shows that heavy use
of DDT in the United States before 1966 may have produced a previously
undetected epidemic of premature births. Click here for full press release.
The study appears in the current issue of the international medical journal
"Lancet." Click here to visit the Lancet, you can register for
free and access a copy of the study.
said they found elevated levels of DDT's breakdown product, DDE, in the
stored blood of mothers recorded as giving birth to premature or low birth
weight infants. Pre-term births are a major contributor to infant mortality.
"DDT levels in the U.S. are now low and likely not causing any harm,"
said Matthew Longnecker, M.D., Sc.D., NIEHS, lead author on the study.
"But we have to be concerned about what might be happening in those
25 countries where DDT is still used. Also, looking back on earlier decades
in the U.S., we may have had an epidemic of pre-term births that we are
just now discovering."
DDT has long
been suspected of reproductive toxicity. Rachel Carson identified the
chemical as being a potent reproductive toxin in birds in her seminal
book "Silent Spring" published in 1962. The book forecast a
time when DDT and other persistent pesticides could produce a spring where
there were no birds left to sing. In fact, bald eagle and the brown pelican
were nearly driven to extinction before the banning of DDT in the U.S.
in 1972 brought their numbers back.